« PreviousContinue »
separate courts for proceedings in equity in any of the southwestern states.
The supreme courts of all the southwestern states are exclusively appellate courts so far as the adjudication of cases is concerned. In Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, the supreme courts have supervision over the lower courts as to conflicts of holding and regulatory writs. The Supreme Court of Oklahoma has control over boards and commissions. In general, their jurisdiction extends to both criminal and civil cases in both law and equity. However, in Texas and Oklahoma, the supreme courts have only appellate civil jurisdiction, while the courts of criminal appeal exercise final jurisdiction in criminal cases and thus constitute the anomalies of second supreme courts. There is no provision for settling conflicts in the holdings of these courts on points of law.
The supreme courts in most intances can by writ of certiorari call for the records of the trials of the lower courts and decide the cases themselves. They can also instruct the judges of lower courts, if requested, on points of law in cases being tried in the lower appellate courts.
Appeal in all these states exists as a matter of right and not as a matter of law. This is responsible for repeated appeals or the fact that appellate jurisdiction is primarily continuous throughout the system of courts. This means that appellate jurisdiction, whether exercised by lower appellate courts or by courts of both original and appellate jurisdiction, does not relieve the dockets of the supreme courts to any considerable extent. Its being continuous rather than final means that it finally reaches the supreme court and breaks it down. The exception to this is the separate appellate criminal court which has final jurisdiction over its docket.
There is a large amount of concurrent original jurisdiction in the various systems. In Texas, there is concurrent original jurisdiction between justice's courts and county
courts and between county courts and district courts, and in Louisiana between district courts and justice's courts. There is a double system of courts in such instances rather than a unitary one.
The same class of courts in the various states differ considerably in their original, appellate and final jurisdiction. In a state like Texas and Louisiana with lower appellate courts, the final appellate jurisdiction of the district courts is restricted as compared with a state like Oklahoma which has no intermediate appellate courts exercising civil jurisdiction. In states that have no county courts, the district courts have a larger original jurisdiction.
There is less duplication in the jurisdiction of the courts of Arkansas than in those of any other southwestern state. Jurisdiction in the county is divided between the county court and the justice's court. There is no concurrent original jurisdiction between them and no appellate jurisdiction from the justice's court to the county court. They are practically separate and independent courts, from both of which lie appeals to the circuit courts. Since there are no inferior appellate courts, cases are appealed or removed directly to the supreme court. The jurisdiction of the courts of Arizona and New Mexico is distributed in almost the same way. In New. Mexico, the jurisdiction of the county is divided between justice's court and probate court and in New Mexico appeals lie from the justice's court through the superior court to the supreme court. The size of these states and the consequent smaller volume of litigation make such an arrangement more feasible for them than for a larger state like Texas.
1. THEIR QUALIFICATION.
An age of 30 is generally required; from 2 to 5 years' residence in the state; citizen of United States and the state in which he is elected; 5 to 7 years in the practice of law or the same length of experience as lawyer and judge. He must be "learned in the law." This phrase has come down from the middle ages without definition. It is in practice the ability to pass the state bar examination. Here again is a requirement as much in the air as Mohammed's coffin. It should be defined as holding a license to practice law or a certain amount of college training, or eliminated. It now means a certain amount of political tact necessary for election after the acquisition of a license to practice law.
2. THEIR ELECTION.
Judges in all the southwestern states from justice of the peace to chief justice are elected. The terms of office of the supreme justices vary from five years in Oklahoma to six in Arizona and Texas, eight in New Mexico and Arkansas and twelve in Louisiana. The district judge holds office for four years in Arizona, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma and for six years in New Mexico. It is noticed here that the term of office of the district judge averages less than half that of the supreme justice, yet because of the small district he is from and the larger volume of business that passes through his court, he should enjoy as much immunity and independence as a supreme justice. The district judge is generally regarded as the most important official of modern civilization.
3. THEIR SALARIES.
The salaries of the supreme justices range from $4000 in Arkansas, to $5000 in Arizona, $6000 in New Mexico and Oklahoma, $6,500 in Texas and $8000 in Louisiana. Only one state in the southwest, Louisiana, exceeds the average salary of the state judges of the supreme courts throughout the union. The average salary of the 284 state judges of the union' is $7,185 ($14,000 is paid in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and $17,500 is proposed in New York and $25,000 in Michigan) while the average for the southwest is $5,916.66 2-3. The per capita cost of the supreme courts in the southwest in cents is .654 in Texas, 1.866 in Louisiana, 5.393 in Arkansas, 5.831 in Oklahoma, 7.358 in Arizona and 8.574 in New Mexico. The figures for Texas include the salaries of only three supreme justices while for the last three years there have been six justices sitting in two commissions aiding the supreme court to unload its docket. It is estimated that it will catch up with its work in two more years.
The cost of all other courts per capita in cents for the southwestern states is 6.112 for Arkansas, 6.607 for Oklahoma, 8.331 for Arizona, 12.607 for Louisiana, 20.702 for New Mexico and 25.240 for Texas.
The total cost of the courts of the southwestern states is $52,883 for Arizona, $105,503 for New Mexico, $201,989 for Arkansas, $262,273 for Louisiana, $252,334 for Oklahoma, and $1,207,637 for Texas. The cost of the courts of Texas is five times that of Oklahoma but its population is only about two and a fourth times that of Oklahoma.
1. CONSTITUTIONAL COURTS.
Practically all of the courts in all the southwestern states are constitutional courts. They are established by the constitution and cannot be changed except by amending the constitution. The process of amending the state constitution has broken down throughout the union. This means that such a set of courts is static and cannot be readily modified to fit the progress of the state. It soon happens that the growth of population and a more highly industrialized society demand more courts and frequently different types of courts. It is equally unwise to state salary of judges or their qualifications in the constitution because these matters are subject to frequent change, and should, for this reason be a matter of statute. None of these matters are stated in the Constitution of the United States relative to the judiciary. A normal growth of the judiciaries and their modification on a basis of experience ought not to be prevented by constitutional restrictions. The executive departments have considerably modified themselves by the establishment of boards and commissions, many of which exercise judicial powers. In some instances administrative courts would doubtless have served these needs more satisfactorily. The legislative departments constantly change their numbers and their representative character by the creation of new districts, yet the courts are expected to give satisfaction without being permitted to change even in a half century. This has prevented the courts from changing their character and procedure so as properly to adjudicate a large amount of litigation that is now settled outside of the courts by conciliation and arbitration in an extra-legal way. This predicament of the courts is not of their own making, but at the same time is a cause of very serious criticism. 2. POPULAR ELECTION.
All the judges in all the courts of all the southwestern states are elected by popular vote. This has come about by the western states slavishly copying, without question, the changes made in the eastern state judiciaries by the Andrew Jackson revolution, and because of the levelling influences of the frontier. The idea has been prevalent that the judiciaries, because of their intimate relation to the individual citizen, should, like the executive and legislative departments, be subject to popular control. It has thus happened that a political theory, possibly defensible for a simple society, has been perpetuated into a highly industrialized society, the character of whose litigation has almost totally changed. In practice this theory, under present conditions, seems defective for the following reasons: a. The technical character of a judgeship.
At the present time, increasing emphasis is being laid on the importance of training for administrative governmental positions. Some maintain that the merit system ought to prevail in the selection of administrative officials throughout our system of governments. Whatever may be said of its merits relative to the administrative side of government can be repeated with emphasis with reference to the judiciaries. There is no phase of government that demands an expert and a student for its execution as much as the judiciary. It is demanding too much of the electorate to ask it to select an expert.